Quantum Miracles: Physical Spirituality

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OK, please bear with me here. Other than the fact that I am as curious as a cat (and live with three of them) I haven’t the foggiest notion what I am talking about. Still, there just might be something to this.

In 1935 the Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger envisioned a scenario that illustrated some of the mysteries of quantum mechanics. This famous thought experiment became known as the dilemma of “Schroedinger’s Cat.

Here is a description of Shroedinger’s Cat that I found a bit easier to digest.

Schrodinger’s Cat

A cat is in a box with a lid that is shut. Within the box is a radioactive nucleus that has a 50-50 chance of decaying in an hour. If the nucleus decays this triggers a mechanism that breaks a vial of poison gas that kills the cat. The cat has two states: alive or dead. Schrodinger argued that if quantum mechanics is regarded as a fundamental universal theory then it must be applicable to all systems be they small or large. If so, then we must write, for the cat’s state,

|cat> = a|alive> + b|dead>,

that is, the cat apparently is in a superposed state of life and death! Then we open the box.

According to the measurement hypothesis (discussed next) when we open the box, we are performing a measurement of the cat’s state; this is said to cause the cat’s superposed state to collapse into one base state or the other |dead> or |alive>. The cat is found either pushing up the daisies, or purring for its milk. Schroedinger considered this to be so absurd that (like Einstein) he concluded that quantum mechanics could not be the final word; something was missing.

This is such a strange notion, a cat that is somehow both alive and dead, and, more to the point, contrary to what appears to happen in the macroscopic world that there seems to be only two possibilities: either quantum mechanics works only on a microscopic scale, in which case it is not a universal theory, or it is a universal theory in which case it cries out for a better understanding of the notion of superposition.

Since the advent of quantum theory, many physicists have tried to devise different interpretations of the superposition of states.

From “The Quantum World” , Florida State University Physics Department.
http://www.physics.fsu.edu/users/ProsperH/AST3033/quantumworld.htm

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So, in a layman’s nutshell: Just the act of observing an experiment will affect the outcome. The tree falling in the forest makes no noise.(The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle makes a similar statement, but let’s not go there right now.)

 

The reason I wanted to talk about Schroedinger’s cat is because I think it might just have some bearing on the validity and relevance of miracles. A group of us have been engaged in a discussion over some of the works of CS Lewis and recently the topic was his essay “Miracles”. Lewis, for those of you who do not know, is considered by many to be one of the greatest of Christian apologists, practicing the art of intellectually and rationally explaining the Christian faith to those who do not believe.

In this essay it is his premise that the miracles that have been witnessed by many people over the centuries present clear evidence, to anyone who is interested, that there exists a God, particularly the God of Christianity. One of the people in our group took issue with his suggestion, a suggestion that is not unique to Lewis and is considered a part of Christian doctrine as told in the various creeds.

She contended that so many of these miraculous events are easily explained away by non-religious people and the more that science reveals of our natural world, the less people are likely to accept supernatural explanations. There also tends to be a lack of consensus among spiritual believers over what constitutes a miracle, from dramatic healings to the finding of lost keys.

I would have to agree with her. I have witnessed events that I can only describe as being supernatural evidence of God but rarely have I presented them to others as being miraculous. When I have witnessed those attempts at convincing a skeptic that God does work miracles in this world, they have never been successful. That doesn’t mean that miracles have never drawn someone closer to accepting spiritual possibilities, but I have never seen it happen.

The evidence of miracles had very little to do with my turning away from atheism, and the same can be said for my family and friends. I can not recall ever witnessing a miracle (before I found my faith in God) that I would have identified as such. But since I now enjoy a relationship with God, through Jesus, rarely does a day go by that I do not encounter a miracle or two. Some of them may be considered mundane but more than a few cannot be easily explained away naturally.

So could it be, that because I have changed my perspective on life, miracles do exist for me as I observe them? And when a skeptic observes the same event, there is no miracle, because of his particular vantage point? I am not suggesting here that our perception causes us just to see things differently (though that is certainly true) but that in many (perhaps all) instances it is our actual physical observation that helps shape the outcome.

In other words; the skeptic opens the box to find the cat dead because his rational mind, weighing the evidence in hand, tells him it must be so. When the person of faith opens the box, she witnesses the miracle of a live cat even though the same evidence was clearly visible to her. Her faith has effectively changed the outcome of the event.

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Matthew 13:58

What do you think? Other than perhaps I should consider putting a little less catnip in my pipe.

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  1. #1 by Christian Beyer on August 3, 2007 - 6:21 am

    Gosh, Mike, thanks for the ‘compliment’. Though couldn’t you be induced to admit that it is just possible that the close minded person might be the one who will not even entertain the possibility of the super-natural? I know you hail from the British Isles but you could very well be from Missouri – the “Show Me” state.

    But you’ve missed my point again. For another example of what I believe to be a miraculous chain of events – God actively manipulating the physical world to present us (or in this case just a couple of us) with a ‘sign’ pointing towards him – please check out my article on the Apostle Sherri. God’s work in our lives is evident to those who commune with him and that work always has a purpose. That purpose is often more than just to prove his existence to the skeptic. Instead of running about shouting “Praise be!”, I have shied away from proclaiming the miraculous, except under questioning such as now.

    The circumstances that would dismiss the meteors (perhaps man made, but more than a mere ‘light’) would be the state of my mind in relation to my heart. I would guess that not all of the 80,000 people at that farm believed that what they saw was a miracle. For them it was not. It was merely a physical event, much like reading the words in a book. But to many of us we could find meaning in this event, just as we can find meaning within the various combinations of ink and papyrus.

    Gotta run. Off to work.

  2. #2 by BuddyO on August 3, 2007 - 9:18 am

    ‘athiest..’

    I always get a chuckle when I hear an athiest refer to someone as ‘close minded’ when somthing can’t be explained in terms they can comprehend (something about a pot and a black kettle comes to mind…). You seem to rely heavily on the ‘Modern’ scientific model; where things must be explained using current scientific knowledge. That seems to me to be a pretty small little box. Are you afraid to admit that there are things you don’t understand or cannot comprehend? Are you that arrogant?

    Calling someone anti-intellectual (aka ‘stupid hat’) really reveals the depth of your insecurity. In fact, folks like Christian and many others are actually engaging in hyper-intellectual dialog in many forums. It’s only when we begin to escape the tiny little box that ‘Modern’ predisposition creates, that we begin to open our minds to acually see the Truth.

    Before you fit me for a ‘stupid hat’ as well, know that I too am ‘in the sciences’ per se. I am an engineer in the electronics industry working designing cutting edge fiber optic techology, in addition I am a fluent programmer in multiple languages. I live in formulas, equations and logic all day. I, however; understand that Science is only but one window through which to view Truth. Science, along with the Arts, Sociology (relationships), Faith, etc, etc, ad infinitum are all ‘Views to a Secret’ as Jaco Pastoruis would say. Each one important in it’s own way, but none show the entire picture.

    You seem to have a disregard for the Mystical (or quite frankly all other thought except the Scientific). You may want to re-evaluate who is close minded.

  3. #3 by atheistperspective on August 3, 2007 - 9:31 am

    LOL 🙂 This comes up so often I’m getting tired of it. In fact I answered much of what you’ve accused me of here: http://www.atheistperspective.com/for-the-last-time-science-is-not-another-kind-of-faith/

    I can’t be bothered doing so again here. You guys offer nothing by the way of proving anything. It’s all touchy fealy nonsense “opening our minds to see the truth”, quite frankly, you all sound rather deluded. I mean, wtf does that actually mean? You guys have been reading too much Deepak Chopra.

  4. #4 by BuddyO on August 3, 2007 - 10:14 am

    ‘athiest…’,

    I see you are an incredibly busy man so I’ll make it quick. 😉

    Again your view is too narrow to see my point. I’m not comparing Science and Faith, or Science and Arts and saying they are the same genere, or that you must pick either one or the other.

    What I am asking is to take a step back see Science for the empirical thought that it is, see Faith as reyling on the intangible, see Sociology as being relational, the Arts as visceral, etc.

    Just as the eye doesn’t preclude the ear, nor does the hand eliminate the need for the mouth, all work together form something bigger.

    Take, the blinders off, let your defenses down and see the bigger picture. The Science you love does not need to be threatened, nor does Faith, Relationship or anything else. Somehow they all fit together to describe the same thing, Truth.

    You ask what is Truth? The Earth, Universe, Origins, Life, Love, Relationship, Eternity, Hope, Exsitence, Meaning

    BTW: What is ‘wft’…? ‘Wonderful Toughtful Fellow’…? 😉

  5. #5 by atheistperspective on August 3, 2007 - 11:26 am

    I see science as being able to answer most questions. I understand it can’t answer all of them. I happy to say ‘I don’t know’. What caused the big bang? I have no idea. Maybe Weinberg will come up with a theory one day. Until then, I’ll live happily not knowing. What I’m not willing to do (and what I object to) is playing guessing games. If you have some reason to believe that God showed himself as a light at a concert then please tell me.

    If you can give me the criteria by which you judge a miracle over and above a coincidence then I’m all ears. But that’s not what I’m hearing.

    All I’m getting from you guys are these ideas of touchy feallynes and it’s nonsense.

    What you’re doing is simply making things up for no good reason.

    Here’s the difference between you guys and myself:

    I see a light in the sky and I can’t explain it. I say:

    “I saw a light, I have no idea what it was, it really could have been anything from a UFO to a flying shiny elephant.”

    You see the same light and say:

    “It was God, I know it”.

    Do you see the difference between our attitudes? I’m the one that’s open minded. I’m the one that is willing to consider all kinds of reasons.

    I see this is the rational way of dealing with the world.

    If you want to believe in the magical then that’s fine. But you are no different to all those crazies that believe in astrology, homeopathy or other pseudo science babble..

    I have a flying pink elephant called Erik. He’s also invisible and he lives in my back garden. What? You don’t believe me? Well you should open your mind for goodness sakes.

  6. #6 by Christian Beyer on August 3, 2007 - 12:26 pm

    Michael – we saw lights in the sky and they were the remnants of a man made satellite breaking up on re-entry, atmospheric friction causing them to flame out spectacularly. All easily explained scientifically and that is exactly what i believe that event to be.

    At that time, in that place, with those people singing that particular song it was also nothing short of miraculous.

    Earlier you said;

    “I do believe in miracles although our definition of what a miracle is would probably differ. There are many things we see that are amazing or that we would find difficult to explain through science.”

    I don’t think that things that are beyond the ability of science to explain are any more miraculous per se than anything else. The odds are that science will eventually explain some of those ‘super natural’ phenomena. Some of life’s more mundane and routine events can be miraculous, depending upon the circumstances of those whose lives they touch. The true miracles are taking place in the lives of those who encounter the sacred and start to understand that they are much more than the sum of their physical properties.

    Science can and usually does help us to appreciate the sacredness of this universe, and we don’t all have to agree where we stand on this. Buddy, I am sure, would disagree with me when I say that I can sense the miraculous, the sacred, in what we call evolution. That explanation of how life came about is, for me, much richer, much more intricate a way of explaining God’s creativity than what is a literal reading of Genesis. That being said, a relationship with God could include either or both of those descriptions of God’s grace and their is no reason for me to take Buddy to task or vice versa. God is big enough for both of our limited points of view. I am sure you will be happy to know that he can fit you in somewhere as well. 🙂

    Depak Chopra – never read him, so I won’t discount him. As I have had mystical experiences myself, and as my life becomes more familiar with mystical forms of spirituality I am disinclined to criticize the spirituality of others.

    And about Erik – has he helped you to come to terms with your struggles in life? If he has contributed nothing of value, well than perhaps you should look for another hallucination. 🙂

  7. #7 by BuddyO on August 3, 2007 - 12:31 pm

    LOL 🙂

    Touchy feely, huh… Does that make you cold and sterile?

    You continue to try to define the undefineable using the Scientific method… It’s like a Sociologist asking you how a quadratic equation makes you feel… It’s just a stuipid question.

    There are some crossovers like this, for example Artists using thier methods to express Science (fractals) or Faith exhibited through Relationship. However useful these means may be, they can never fully satisfy as well as a native definition. This is the source of your frustration, you are only willing to accept a definition of God (who is beyond comprehension) in your own Scientific idiom.

    Fight the urge to be so condecending. Chris deduced the lights were God because he used multiple disciplines to make that analysis. He admited that he knew the scientific explanation of the lights but he was open minded enough to combine that knowledge with multiple disciplines to find a cohesive explanation.

    You say that you are open to considering all kinds of reason, yet you deomonstrate that you are not.

    For a second think outside the box with me… What if we (humankind) would start back at square one with a common axiom:

    1. Science and Faith are both valid
    2. Science and Faith can never contradict one another

    How would that affect how we analyze and interpret Scientific data?
    How would that affect how we read and interpret Scripture?
    What happens when start including multiple other disciplines (Relationship, Art, etc) in the original axiom?

    BTW: Your interpersonal skills really need some work… 😉

  8. #8 by Christian Beyer on August 3, 2007 - 12:33 pm

    Oh, one more point:

    But you are no different to all those crazies that believe in astrology, homeopathy or other pseudo science babble.

    There is a difference. A relationship with God requires devotion to him, and that means devotion to others. Unlike what you have just compared our faith to, true Christianity is not about what God can do for me, but how I can better serve him, usually by serving others. It is by taking on this ‘yoke’ that we truly become free to enjoy the ‘peace that transcends all understanding’.

    Yes, the problem is that many do not ‘get it’, and that includes Christians. It particularly includes me, because I am far from perfect, making me a very selfish man who hurts others regularly. But I can take heart in the forgiveness of God and try to do better (repentance).

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